Liverpool vs Real Madrid: spectacular finals that will light up the dark age of European history Philipp Lahm

WWhen Real Madrid lost the first game of their last Champions League match in Paris on February 15, the world was completely different. At the time of the second match, Russia had invaded Ukraine. Football has become unimportant. But those who have seen Real miraculously turn the game over will never forget it.

This year, the final of the Champions League takes place at a time when war is raging in Europe. He was moved from St. Petersburg to Paris because Russia, the aggressor, was expelled. Autocrat Putin’s war is changing the world.

It is the Real Madrid team that is distracting Europe in the sad times of this spring. On the way to the finals, they defeated last year’s finalists Chelsea and Manchester City in a similarly spectacular way as when they won over PSG. Their opponents dominated the game, Real survived the critical stages and then surprised the opponents and the football world with great moments.

In the semifinals against City Real in the 90th minute, he lost by two goals – and won. It reminded me of Bayern Munich’s painful defeat at Manchester United in 1999 or Chelsea’s victory in 2012.Finale dahoam ”, my personal Waterloo. On the other hand, in Premier League City last Sunday, he turned 0: 2 into 3: 2 and became the champion. The inexplicable is part of the fascination with football.

Now the 13-time Real champion faces the six-time Liverpool champion. As for whether Real can do another miracle, all eyes are on Karim Benzem. The best striker in the world is what Real is all about: talent, genius, intuitive understanding of the game, belief in one’s own strength. He scored against PSG three times in 17 minutes. He scored 10 goals in six elimination fights. In the season, he equaled the record of Cristiano Ronaldo in the number of goals of the Champions League and could overtake him in the final.

Benzem’s trespassing on the field does not make it easier for him to admire him. But he is one of the greats. He has won the Champions League four times. In Paris, like Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos (who won the first of his four titles with Bayern), he could match Alfred di Stefano, who created the myth of Real Madrid with a unique winning streak from 1956 to 1960.

Karim Benzema celebrates his goal against Manchester City in the second match of the Champions League semifinal
Karim Benzema, who showed himself after scoring against Manchester City in the Champions League, has established himself as one of the greats. Photo: Javier Soriano / AFP / Getty Images

Discipline is not what one associates with Benzema. Keeping a player like him requires a coach who knows who he is dealing with in the club that every footballer dreams of. Carlo Ancelotti, the first coach to make the final for the fifth time, is now a perfect fit for Real. Kroose, Modriče and Casemira took turns against the City in 10 minutes. It takes instinct to recognize the right moment for such a coup. And anyone who gathers the consents of these players for their decisions on the line, like Ancelotti, enjoys complete credibility.

The Galatians – This is a tradition of Real for more than half a century. There are the best of the best of each generation. They come from Spain and South America, occasionally from Europe, usually from the major football nations of France, England, Italy and Germany. City and especially PSG imitate Real and want a bit of that glamor. In ten years, they have failed to catch up. They are still copies and Real, even if he left out Kylian Mbappý, remains the original.

Liverpool represents a different path. The decisive factors in their football are physics, speed, driving forward in almost all positions. That’s how most teams want to play. In the European League final, Eintracht defeated Frankfurt in a passionate Battle of the Rangers. But no one comes close to Liverpool’s perfection; the style of that time is tailor-made for the port and the workers’ city.

There, in seven years, a unity was formed between Jürgen Klopp and his players. He manages to bring the Liverpool loser mentality to the field and draw strength from the aura of historical club dramas around Heysel and Hillsborough. Like all the great teams, Liverpool has created an identity that will lead him to the third final in five years. Barcelona was more than a club, Bayern was “mia san mia“And in Liverpool Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mané never go alone.

“You’ll never go alone!” A team is bigger than an individual. Philippe Coutinho, once Liverpool’s best, didn’t realize it. He failed to establish himself in Barcelona and Bayern and now plays for Aston Villa. Mohamed Salah, on the other hand, became the star of the Liverpool community. As a 12-year-old, he traveled four hours a day for training to Egypt each day; today it is in the hall of fame. This ambition, this desire to succeed, characterizes Liverpool. The contrast with Real and Benzema could hardly have been greater. That’s why I’m really looking forward to this game.

Of course, you can’t enjoy football carefree, you can’t ignore war. It has an impact on the people of Europe, especially Ukraine. In the group stage, Real Madrid lost at home to Sheriff Tiraspol, a club from Transnistria. Their coach Yuriy Vernydub left the team just before the European League match in Braga on February 24 to defend their home country, Ukraine. He won the Bernabée a few months ago and is now fighting his compatriots in the front line with a gun in his hand. A football story from 2022.

Philipp Lahm’s column appears regularly in the Guardian. It is published in collaboration with Oliver Fritsch in the German online magazine Zeit Online and is published in several European countries.

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